This is, by my reckoning, only the second era of real conservative power. We have had six political generations in America’s political history (since the revolutionary Founders who brought forward the Declaration and then the Constitution) and the majority have been liberal eras.
Count ’em down:
- In the Jefferson era, American democracy was truly revolutionary. Conservatives were imperial absolutists.
- In the Jackson era, conservativism reigned. Economically, Jackson constantly sought to restrict the national power, and the executive’s power. Socially, the whole aim was to uphold a balance favoring the continuation of slavery.
- In the Lincoln era, industrial business values were liberal. Conservatism demanded an absence of social mobility.
- In the Progressive Era, liberalism was balanced with the needs of business, but still heard, in both parties.
- In the FDR Era, well enough said.
- In the Nixon era, conservative assumptions rule.
See? Two out of six. And we’re about to enter a new era in which conservatism is being discredited, because it is being given its head and it is proving itself irrelevant.
Conservatism is always regressive, backwards-looking. It was the glue
that held the country together under Jacksonian Democracy. (The first
attempt at succession, remember, was in 1832.) Americans turned to Nixonism because the New Deal failed in a welter of domestic riots and foreign wars.
Conservativism is always the same. It never has new tales to tell. It seeks to replicate the past, always. That is its nature.
But that is not America’s nature. If it were, America would not be what
it is. Liberals like Digby don’t see it because they have lived all
their political lives within Nixonian assumptions. As have the rest of
us. They assume conservatism is eternal (and it is) but forget that it is usually in opposition.
Forty years is a long, long time. But eras end, and conservativism no
longer has anything to say. Thus George W. Bush becomes James
Buchanan, and is swept aside.
Buchanan dithered while the country burned. Bush dithers while the world dies.